Bulldogs edged by Powell in regional championship game

David Peck

The Lovell Bulldogs are peaking at just the right time. That’s the consensus opinion after Lovell won two games at the 3A West Regional Tournament in Thermopolis and came within an eyelash of beating Powell for the regional title.
Coming in as the second seed out of the Northwest, the Bulldogs stopped Southwest third seed Mountain View 52-38 Thursday night and Southwest top seed Pinedale 62-48 Friday night. That set up the championship game against undefeated Powell Saturday evening, and the Panthers prevailed 54-52 on a buzzer-beater by Marshall Lewis, one of five seniors in the starting lineup for the Panthers.
The Bulldogs (19-7) enter the Class 3A State Tournament as the second seed out of the West Region and will open with East Region third seed Wheatland tonight (Thursday) at 7:30 p.m. at the Ford Wyoming Center.
“I was pleased with how we played throughout the weekend,” Lovell head coach Shane Durtsche said. “I thought we played our best basketball so far, especially for an entire weekend. … That’s what you hope for. You want to be playing your best.
“As a coach, all I ever ask for is effort. It’s not about the result. At times we’re not happy with a win if we’re not playing our best. I hate the result of the Powell game, but I’m pleased with the way we played. We didn’t lose that game. Powell won it.”
Saturday’s game was a classic and in the opinion of many fans one of the best basketball games they had seen.
“Dane (Robertson) just told me that was the best high school basketball game he’s seen in a while,” Durtsche said during a Tuesday interview. “It had a good pace, and the kids were making plays.”
The lead see-sawed back and forth throughout the game. Powell took an early 7-3 lead, but Lovell tied it when sophomore center Owen Walker followed his own miss for two and Parker Anderson hit Davin Crosby on the fast break. The game was then tied at 9 and 11. Powell took a 14-11 lead, but Matthew Newman drained a three-pointer at the buzzer, leaving the score 14-14 after one.
Lovell took an 18-14 lead early in the second quarter on a lob pass to Walker and a move and jumper by Newman, but Powell came on strong and outscored Lovell 14-3 to lead 28-21 before senior Blake Wilson splashed a trey at the buzzer. Powell led 28-24 at intermission.
“We had the buzzer-beaters mastered in the first half,” Durtsche said.
Powell turned up the physical play a notch in the third quarter and hit the offensive boards to build a 36-30 lead.
“They started to beat us up a little bit,” Durtsche said. “The only thing I was disappointed in was our rebounding. Some of that is that they’re so big and strong they can move you without fouling. The Stenerson kid (Trey) had a great game.”
After falling behind by six, the Bulldogs rallied with an 8-2 outburst to lead 38-36 as Parker Anderson scored 5 points, Walker 3. A late bank shot by Powell’s Jhett Schwahn knotted the score 38-38 after three.
The fourth quarter was a thriller. Walker scored on a lob from Newman, but Powell countered with a power move by Stenerson and a trey by Alex Jordan. Back came the Bulldogs on a drive and hook by Anderson, a move and jumper by Wilson and a bucket by Walker on a dish from Newman. Lovell led 46-43 halfway through the fourth.
In the final four minutes, Jordan hit a jumper, and Anderson answered with a trey for Lovell – 49-45. After a power move by Stenerson, Walker hit a power follow shot of his own – 51-47. Powell scored on a trey and two free throws by Lewis to lead 52-51, but one of two at the line by Walker tied the score 52-52.
Unfortunately, Lovell could not score in the final two minutes, running into some bad luck. Lewis shot an air ball but the Panthers got a tie-up in the ensuing scramble and had the possession arrow pointing in their direction. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs played aggressive defense, with Durtsche instructing his players to foul if a Powell player seemed to be getting by the defender.
With 10 seconds left, the Bulldogs stripped the ball from Gunnar Erickson, but referees ruled that the ball went out of bounds off Lovell.
Powell called time out with five seconds left, and Lewis calmly knocked down the clutch jumper at the buzzer.
In the final moments, with Powell star Brock Johnson having fouled out, Lovell coaches figured Erickson was Powell’s best option and schemed to take that away from the Panthers. Freshman Kaeson Anderson did a nice job defending Erickson, Durtsche said.
“It goes into Marshall (Lewis), and Matthew played pretty good defense, had his hand up. That kid was probably their third option, so I’ll take my chances.
“That’s why Powell wins. They have a bunch of seniors who have been there.”
Neither team shot particularly well – Powell 40 percent and Lovell 37 percent, but Powell hit nine of 11 free throws. Powell won the battle of the boards 33-22, but Lovell had only five turnovers in the game.
“We had 18 turnovers in Powell on February 22 and cut that to five,” Durtsche noted. “I’m ecstatic about that. The only thing I have a problem with is rebounding. That kicked our butt.
“I can’t feel bad. I was pleased with the way we played. Good heavens, we took one of the top teams to the brink. I hope that carries over to this weekend.”
Parker “LeBron” Anderson led Lovell with 19 points and four steals, hitting nine of 10 free throw attempts. Walker finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, Newman 11 points and four assists. Wilson scored 5 points, Crosby 2 and Kaeson Anderson 1.
Mountain View
Lovell opened tournament play Thursday night against a scrappy Mountain View club that battled back after an early deficit before the Bulldogs carried the day 52-38.
The Bulldogs outscored Mountain View 16-6 in the first quarter and 14-5 in the second to lead 30-11 at halftime, at one point blowing out the Buffalos with a 20-2 run led by back-to-back treys by Newman, a trey and three free throws by Kaeson Anderson, a free throw and spin move by brother Parker, a dish from Parker to Newman and three-point play by Walker on a lob from Newman.
Down by 19 points, Mountain View fired up trey after trey in the third quarter and hit them with deadly accuracy. The Buffs hit five three-pointers in the third and outscored Lovell 19-10 to chop the lead to 10, 40-30.
“They came out and hit everything they threw up, even contested two-pointers,” Durtsche said. “Our kids got a little bit back on their heels, but it’s a totally different dynamic. They hit us with a haymaker, just hit some tough shots.”
Mountain View cut the Lovell lead to seven points, 40-33, with the team’s sixth trey of the half before the Bulldogs outscored the Buffalos 12-5 the rest of the game to win by 14.
Lovell finished with only six turnovers, had 17 assists and outrebounded Mountain View 25-19.
Kaeson Anderson led the Bulldogs with 15 points, and Parker Anderson added 12 points, seven assists and four rebounds, Walker 11 points and 10 rebounds, Newman 10 points and Crosby 4.
The Bulldogs punched their ticket to State with a 62-48 win over Pinedale Friday night, once again building a big lead but struggling a bit in the third quarter.
Lovell never trailed in the game, opening with back-to-back treys by Wilson and Parker Anderson. The Bulldogs built an 11-2 lead and took a 19-10 lead into the quarter break.
The Bulldogs launched a 12-0 run in the second quarter to lead 31-10 and went on to lead 37-17 at halftime, playing perhaps their best half of basketball this season, Durtsche said.
“We came out on fire in that game. We
definitely shell-shocked Pinedale,” he said.
Much like Mountain View the night before, Pinedale shot the lights out in the third, going on runs of 6-0, 5-2 and 5-0 to chop the deficit to 14 points after three, 47-33. The Wranglers cut the lead to 11 three times in the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs finished the game strong, outscoring Pinedale 7-4 down the stretch.
Parker Anderson led the Bulldogs with 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Walker had 18 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots, Newman 12 points, four rebounds and three steals. Crosby added 6 points, six assists and five boards, Wilson 5 points and Kaeson Anderson 2.
“Parker had a great weekend,” Durtsche noted, “probably his most consistent weekend after the Big Horn Basin Classic. I couldn’t ask for more out of a senior.”
State tournament
The Bulldogs will open the Class 3A State Tournament against some fellow Bulldogs, 16-9 Wheatland, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Ford Wyoming Center. Wheatland went 3-1 at the 3A East Regional over the weekend, beating Newcastle 63-41, falling to Buffalo 45-30, eliminating Glenrock 62-59 and crushing Rawlins in the third-place game, 52-37.
Lovell beat Wheatland 39-31 at the East-West Classic in Lander on December 16 and also topped the Platte County Bulldogs 27-21 in a slowdown game a year ago at State.
“They’re big and physical, and they like to play it slow,” Durtsche said. “If we play our game, we’ll be OK. We didn’t play well against them in Lander. The JV game was still going on, so we had a short bench and there was no energy in the gym. We struggled to get going. They led most of the way, then we took the lead and never looked back.”
If Lovell wins, the Bulldogs will play the winner of the first-round Douglas-Pinedale game Friday at 9 p.m. at Casper College. Douglas beat Lovell 72-42 in the first round at State a year ago and 71-44 on December 15 in Lander.
“They’re similar to Powell in that they have a group of seniors who have played together forever,” Durtsche said. “At least two seniors started as sophomores, and four of five starters from last year are  back.
“There’s not a better environment in the state than the 3A semifinals at Casper College.”
On the other side of the bracket are Powell, Buffalo, Worland and Rawlins. The 3A championship
game is scheduled for Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Ford Wyoming Center.